It was supposed to be a relaxing dinner with their family after spending who knows how many hours on a lengthy flight, and perhaps in some alternate reality, Dylan’s experience upon returning home after a full semester might have been different, peaceful even. But in this one, they find themselves somewhat Uprooted.
While I’d like to say that blood relatives – parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, nieces, and so on – are always your best and only family, that’s far from always the case, and in this visual novel, we’re treated to a great example of just that. The concept of “found family” exists for a reason, someone considered family by way of chosen bonds rather than blood relations, and while such can’t legally replace a parent (without a ton of paperwork, anyway), it can most certainly bring more happiness to the life of an individual than their own flesh and blood. Especially if some are… well, anything like those of our protagonist.
In fact, the story barely has a chance to begin before the tone is made crystal clear to the player, and from that point onwards it’s up to us to help Dylan make it through dinner with his mom, dad, brother, and sister. This is handled through a handful of choices which lead to one of several endings, and yes, one of them is the “true ending” (aptly named as such, too). As far as I can tell, most routes differ a fair amount from the rest, even if a lot of content is, of course, repeated throughout. Something that’s neither uncommon in a choice-based narrative, nor is it a negative in my books.
Will new roots be made, or do old ones still linger?
What even is home?
Seeing how Uprooted was made in 48 hours during North Shore Global Game Jam 2023, it’s hardly all that surprising that the runtime is relatively short, clocking in at less than half an hour to witness everything on offer. It does still manage to tell a story that feels complete and provides an experience that doesn’t linger or contain unresolved plot threads. Oh, and there’s also something for the eyes and ears with its lovely art style akin to that of an oil painting, and music that sounds like a blend of calm and playful; almost as if it’s trying to fix the tense dinner table atmosphere?
On another positive note, I really like how clearly defined everyone’s personalities are, and how they all get enough screen time to make their presence felt. Sure, certain choices do shift the focus ever so slightly, and Dylan is pretty much always front and centre, even if they are literally being an invisible protagonist (to the player, anyway). Events are recollected, news shared, decisions made, and – again, depending on choices made – things just might work out in the end.
In fact, why not find out for yourself? Even if Uprooted wasn’t entirely free, I’d still recommend grabbing a copy and seeing just what transpired at Dylan’s family gathering.
Uprooted is available on itch.io.